Saturday, December 27, 2008

Goodbye Pic n Mix, Farewell Zavvi Too?

I've just noticed that today is the day when Woolworths stores in Northern Ireland are beginning to close down. By the end of the day, Ballymena, Armagh, Enniskillen, Lurgan and Newry will be no more. (Just the Woolies shops, not the actual towns...) A sad day, and more to follow, with all 19 stores to close by 5th January. Woolworths couldn't even see out the Twelve Days of Christmas 2008.

I have fond memories of Woolworths from childhood. On Saturdays, mum would take us up on the bus to Banbridge to see granny, and Woolies (and Wellworths as well) was a vital stopping point. Woolworths was where the pic n mix was bought. Woolworths was where the bargain cds were bought. Woolworths was where the pogs were bought. (Remember those?) Woolworths was where the football sticker album stickers were bought - always too many of one player and not enough Man United players! Woolworths was where the cheap novelty Christmas presents were bought. Woolworths was where my Coca-cola yoyo was bought from. Yes, happy times, with the promise of a pound or so from granny to spend on the way back to the bus.

Yet it appears that where Woolworths went wrong was that it lost its clear market focus. It got lost amid its own comprehensiveness, and ended up specialising in nothing. The world of retailing has moved on from cassette and later cd singles to iTunes and mp3s, at significantly reduced cost. Woolworths just couldn't compete.

There's a lesson there, both for anyone in business, but also for the church. It's important to keep the main thing the main thing. Know what you're about and do it. Wholeheartedly. Sadly Woolies didn't really know what they were about in the end, and the staff will suffer as a result, as well as our High Streets and town centres which will miss the familiar face of Woolworths.

Even worse, it now appears that in the decline of Woolies, it may take others with it - Zavvi (the shops formerly known as Virgin Megastores) have called in the administrators and a massive clearance sale has been launched.

It could be a very bleak new year indeed.

*** Bonus marks if you spotted a slight musical allusion in the title - I thought this might fit in well to the song 'It's a long way to Tipperary' replacing the line 'Goodbye Piccadilly, Farewell Leicester Square'. OK, maybe you don't see it. Fine!


  1. Glad to hear you're better.

    But did you have to put your title to a tune ... I'm going to be singing that for the rest of the night much to the horror and annoyance of my family!!

    PS pogs - remind me please?

  2. Pogs - I'm trying to remember them myself - I can remember the name. I think they were the circular discs with pictures of cartoon characters on them. They were traded or won and lost in competitions - something about them being in a stack and trying to knock them over? Might just have to google it myself!!!

  3. Yeah, see good old Wikipedia:

    As to the music element - it makes the titles much more catchy (or should that read annoying???)